Fact-checking website Snopes.com has launched a fundraising campaign to help it stay afloat because it claims a business partner has been withholding advertising revenue.
The goal was to raise $500,000, which Snopes met in just over 24 hours with the help of 20,000 backers. Many posted heartfelt messages of support for the website, which has been fact-checking online rumors since 1995.
In his plea for donations, Snopes cofounder David Mikkelson wrote that the website has been "cut off from our historic source of advertising income" and that the site is being held "hostage" by its partner, Proper Media.
Mikkelson told BuzzFeed the dispute with Proper Media means that Snopes currently has no advertising revenue coming in and no other source of income.
The attorney representing Snopes, Paul Tyrell, said in a statement that it wasn't just any business dispute.
"What is at stake here is the survival of a tremendous public resource that has provided critical online fact-checking for more than 20 years," he said. "Snopes.com was rooting out fake news long before ‘fake news' became the big deal it is today.”
At the heart of the fundraiser is a legal dispute sparked by the divorce of the site's founders, David and Barbara Mikkelson. The pair decided to end their marriage in 2014 and Barbara Mikkelson sold her half of the company to Proper Media in 2015.
Proper Media is a California-based company that helps publishers and advertisers monetize their sites. According to its website, the company works with web properties such as RawStory and Salon.
David Mikkelson said the dispute with Proper happened after he tried to terminate a contract with the company. But Proper Media alleges Mikkelson created the issue when he blocked it from accessing managerial accounts, such as payroll management.
The attorney representing Proper Media also denied that it had cut off ad revenue.
“I don’t think I’d call it withheld, this is the co-owner of the company who was making payroll payments to the company,” the attorney, Karl Kronenberger, told BuzzFeed News.
Kronenberger also said that as a part of the ongoing court litigation, Proper Media paid $100,000 in advertising revenue to Snopes's parent company last week.
The next court hearing for the lawsuit filed in the dispute is scheduled for next month.
Jane Lytvynenko is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.
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